HC Deb 24 October 1952 vol 505 cc1496-9
Mr. Henderson Stewart

I beg to move, in page 5, line 24, to leave out subsection (3), and to insert: (3) This Act shall come into operation in England and Wales on such date as the Secretary of State may, by statutory instrument, appoint for those countries, and in Scotland, on such date as the Secretary of State may, by statutory instrument, appoint for Scotland. This Amendment will enable the Bill to be brought into force at different dates for Scotland and for England and Wales. The dates will be determined in the case of Scotland by the Secretary of State, and by the Home Secretary in the case of England and Wales. To this extent the Amendment fulfils the objective of the Amendments tabled by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), who unfortunately, is not here today.

The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) asked earlier what was the purpose or point of the Amendment and whether it could be justified. The answer is that I think it can be justified. It offers a certain amount of flexibility. For example, for one reason or another regulations might very well be ready in England sooner than in Scotland, or vice versa. It would seem to be a pity that the public and the cinemas in one country or the other should be deprived of whatever privileges arise from the regulations merely because the other side of the Border had not gone quite so far.

It is not a very important matter and one does not regard it too seriously, but it is a fair point to make. We are anxious to meet the views of our Scottish colleagues, and on the whole, therefore, this proposal is a good thing to do.

Mr. Patrick Maitland

In thanking my hon. Friend for moving the Amendment, and particularly for his reference to the possibility of flexibility in the administration of the Bill in Scotland, I should like to ask him to make sure that flexibility is not merely a word that is used in this Committee now and forgotten when the administrators get to work, but that it is, in fact, applied.

My hon. Friends and I have in mind the desirability that the Secretary of State, in administering the Bill when it becomes law, should take whatever opportunities are available to consult the cinema industry and the exhibitors. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary and I have already referred to the point that the cinema exhibitors in Scotland, as to 80 per cent. of them, are not the same exhibitors in England and Wales.

My hon. Friends and I, therefore, would be grateful if in flexibly adminstering the Bill when it becomes an Act, attention will be paid to the desirability of constant contact with the cinema exhibitors as well as with the licensing authorities, in order to keep constantly in mind the local conditions and standards, which in many respects are distinctive, north of the Tweed.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

When dealing with an earlier Amendment, when reference was made to this one, I wondered what reason the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland would give for it. I knew that he would be hard put to it to find a reason, and, of course, he has been. As I understand it, the reason—to us it has always been obvious—is that we are more efficient south of the Border than they are in the North, but what effect that acknowledgment will have on the hon. Gentleman's chances in Scotland at the next Election I tremble to think.

Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who had so much to say on Second Reading and who put their names to various Amendments which have been on the Order Paper, should have had the courtesy to be here today to move them. I commiserate with the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) in having to "carry the baby" throughout these proceedings. He has done it extremely well, but, nevertheless, he must now be faint with hunger. As this is, I imagine, a purely Scottish matter, we on this side have no objection to the Amendment and do not intend to oppose it.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I do not see any reason for the Amendment. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said that he was meeting the questions raised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), but my recollection of the right hon. and gallant Member's speech is that he did not think this was at all the way to meet his point of view. All he said was that this offered a certain amount of elasticity, referring only to the time it would take for the Administration to gather up all the various points.

The proof of the sincerity of the Under-Secretary or of the Government to try to meet the case of Scotland will be in the regulations. If the hon. Gentleman presupposes that the Scottish regulations are to come after those for England, and if he properly uses that interval to meet people who have been showing a certain concern at this departure and this hampering uniformity that is suspected, well and good. We cannot, therefore, judge the merits of the Amendment until we see the regulations.

If the regulations for Scotland are to be different from those for England, not only in words but in spirit. I should be prepared to accede to the Amendment, but the hon. Gentleman should not try to "kid" us about meeting all the Scottish objections and, by this sort of face-saving Amendment, try to meet the wishes of his hon. Friends, who, if they had had the courage, would have gone into the Division Lobby instead of withdrawing their Amendments today.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I would point out to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that one of the names to the Amendment of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), at the top of page 2253 of the Order Paper, is that of the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin). It appears, therefore, that the desire for this kind of Amendment was shared both by my hon. Friends and by some, at any rate, of the Scottish Opposition Members. In trying to meet their desires, I thought that I was satisfying a wish that has been expressed by Scottish Members from all sides of the Committee.

Mr. Ross

This was not the only Amendment to be put down, but it is the only one which the Government have gone any way to meet.

Mr. Stewart

That is true. Had the hon. Member been present at the beginning—

Mr. Ross

I was.

Mr. Stewart

—he would have heard me say that for a variety of reasons one of those Amendments could not be accepted.

There is not much more that I need say. I was simply being modest and polite with the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) when I suggested that England might have its regulations sooner than Scotland. In fact, I am hoping that we shall have ours ready before England, and I think, therefore, that Scotland will probably gain.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.